I bet you've never heard of the "Smash the Baltic Fleet Memorial Togo Marshmallow." I hadn't either, before reading Barak Kushner
's lively and illuminating new book on the history of ramen in Japan. Grounded in ample research that incorporates archival and ethnographic methods, Slurp!: A Social and Culinary History of Ramen - Japan's Favorite Noodle Soup
(Global Oriental, 2012) takes us from the early history of noodles and breadstuffs in China and Japan to the styrofoam bowl of instant ramen on modern grocery shelves. In Kushner's able and playful historical hands, this genealogy of foodways is interwoven with strands of Buddhist history, urban and colonial studies, and a detailed account of the emergence of a national cuisine in nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan, memorial marshmallows and all. Kushner's book explores the ways that military influence, the rise of "nutrition" as a health concern, and prevailing conditions of hunger and starvation created a social and political context out of which ramen emerged along with new ways of eating alone and away from home. As if all of that wasn't enough reason to read the book, you'll also learn about the Ramen Philosophers Hall and the technology behind making those crispy instant ramen noodles. Slurp!